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Skills for Effective Online Learning

Skills for effective online learning
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Online learning skills

Much has been written about the characteristics that make some learners successful. The list below represents a compilation of the most common features of successful online learners and some of the best practices that can lead to success.

The successful online learner should:

  1. Possess self-motivation and self-disciplined study habits. Since the online environment lacks much of the structure present in the face-to-face classroom, you must exercise real commitment when adhering to deadlines. In an online course you will need to:
    • Log in regularly - usually several times per week
    • Plan to spend 10-12 hours per week on each 4-credit course
    • Be prepared to interact in large or small group written "discussions" with other students
    • Be able to complete individual or group projects and submit electronic files
    • Ask for help if technical or academic problems arise

  2. Be proficient with time management: students often decide to take online courses because they do not have the time to attend class in person. But to be successful online, you must carve out time from family and work commitments to spend on your online coursework.

  3. Meet the technical and computer skill requirements below:
    • Have access to a reliable, internet-connected computer with an operating system that supports standard web browsers and word processing applications
    • The ability to download plugins and media readers that may be necessary to access some course content
    • Students with disabilities need to have access to any assistive technologies needed to navigate and read web content. The PSU Disability Resource Center can help you determine what tools you need to study online.
  4. Be able to communicate through writing: Moving from the face-to-face classroom to the online environment involves a transition from the spoken to the written word. Many online courses also require a great deal of reading in the course site. You should also:
    • Have good research skills and understand basic web navigation and search strategies
    • Be able to work collaboratively, even when communication is via email or course discussion boards. You may not meet your fellow students in person or in a "synchronous" conversation, but online learning requires good social skills and "netiquette."


Below is a useful checklist of questions and a key to evaluating your self-assessment. Remember that this is not a definitive assessment; it can also be a guide to help you work on the skills you need as an online learner. For more self-assessment questionnaires, see the Web Resources page. This is not an interactive questionnaire, so you'll need to write down your scores and total them on paper.

Scale: 1. Strongly Disagree 2. Disagree 3. Neutral 4. Agree 5. Strongly Agree

  1. I prefer to take control of my own learning.
  2. Most people consider me a self-motivated person.
  3. I do not have a problem completing tasks without feedback or input.
  4. I am self-confident about my skills as a learner.
  5. I enjoy solving problems.
  6. I enjoy learning about many new things.
  7. I am the kind of student who can figure out what needs to be done from the directions that are given regardless of how clear they are.
  8. I prefer working alone than in a group setting.
  9. I can easily set goals and objectives for my learning tasks.
  10. I enjoy reflecting on meaningful learning experiences.
  11. I can function as a learner without face-to-face contact with the professor even though it may not be my preferred mode of learning.
  12. I believe that the experiences adults bring to the classroom are valuable for learning.
  13. I manage my time well.
  14. I believe that the professor is a facilitator for learning.
  15. I am comfortable with computer technology.
  16. I am aware of my preferred style of learning but can easily adapt to other ways.
  17. I know what it takes to get tasks completed.
  18. I am not easily discouraged when technology gets in the way of learning.
  19. I have above-average facility in navigating the Internet.
  20. In most learning situations I enjoy challenging requirements.

Total the values you used to rate yourself. The highest number you can get is 100. The
higher your score, the more likely your success in self-directing learning opportunities
like online courses. The evaluation summaries below may help you in determining your
readiness for taking an online course:

  • 100 - 75: You should be well-suited for taking courses online. You are self-aware
    and should easily navigate courses taken at a distance.
  • 74 – 55: You should do fairly well in taking courses online. Establishing
    goals and setting timelines will be necessary for you.
  • 54 – 25: You may be more suited to hybrid (partially-online) learning prior to taking a fully-online course.
  • 24 and below: You would benefit by taking some further assessments of your learning
    prior to taking an online class.

Assessment created by Erskin Theological Seminary.

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